The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Evolving The Perfect Mouse

As my carpal tunnel issues — which go way, way, way back — continue, so does my search for the perfect mouse.

I think I may have found, if not the perfect mouse, then a close contender.

Sometimes last week I went, when I found myself reaching for another wrist brace, I went on another virtual search for the “perfect mouse.” How can there be a “perfect mouse”? Aren’t they all pretty much the same? Well, yes. Most of them haven’t changed significantly since the first computer mouse was invented. In the long history of the mouse, the essential design hasn’t changed much at all. Look at the mouse that came with your computer, and you’ve pretty much got it.


[pro-player width=’450′ height=’370′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MPJZ6M52dI,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXieYPSqGDc,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtg0kBxa_7E,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lRqdjGmqBI[/pro-player]

Except for a new breed of vertical mouse.

Well, vertical, or vertical-esque. What these mice do, to varying degrees is change the position of your arm, to help avoid what I call “blogger’s wrist” — that pain that you feel in your “mousing arm” after a long day of working on the computer; which can include numbness and tingling in your fingers, dull throbbing pain in your wrist, and sharp pain shooting up and down your arm. If you’re like me, you’ve treated it with OTC pain medications, ointments, braces and just about everything you can think of. I’ve got three different creams and ointments sitting on my desk at home, and several more in a drawer at work.

The problem with carpal tunnel is that the median or medianus nerve, which runs through the small space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, is under pressure because of the unnatural position of the wrist. Repetitive stress is one of causes, like repeatedly using a mouse that requires you hand to lay flat, twisting the arm and compressing the medial nerve. Once you got pain, you’ve got pain. It’s not going away anytime soon, and while you can lessen it with medicines, creams, sprays, and ointments. You can try to avoid it with braces and splints that work to keep your wrist position stable, and keep you from compressing the nerve, but the braces and splints only prevent the pain and don’t stop it. Some are even painful themselves after a while. You can install computer programs that remind you to take breaks at specific intervals, which helps.

But what about avoiding the wrist position that causes the pain in the first place. That where the idea of a vertical mouse comes in. They’re like a mouse tilted or turned on its side. The reason for this is that when you use a vertical mouse, your hand is in what’s supposed to be the more natural “handshake position.” Your hand is turned slightly, as it would if you just laid your hand on your desk without thinking about it, resting on its side, with your little finger resting on the desk and the rest of your fingers slightly cupped as though you were holding a cup of coffee. The position means less pressure on your median nerve, and thus less pain. The idea behind the vertical mouse is that you avoid wrist twist that causes so much pain and that using a standard mouse requires.

I’ve used a few of these mice, enough to form opinions about some of them.

3M Ergonomic Mouse

The 3M ergonomic mouse is the first vertical mouse I tried. It’s also the one that got the strangest looks from my co-workers, despite the fact that it’s not an unfamiliar shape to anyone whose ever seen or used a joystick. Granted, maybe that just applies to a generation that grew up with the old computer games that used joysticks as opposed to wireless controllers, but it’s a shape that’s at least familiar enough to be used for a couple of vertical mice. 3M’s ergonomic mouse is one of them.

[pro-player width=’450′ height=’370′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zng_SYv-wmc[/pro-player]

I admit, the unusual shape of this mouse was a draw. I thought it was so different that it had to be at least somewhat effective. Certainly the position of my arm would be different. In fact, I was so impressed I bought two, one for work and one for home. In both places, this is the mouse I pull out of the drawer when I’ve got a lot of mousework in front of me and the pain is starting to set in, because it absolutely forces my arm into a better, less painful position. Once you get used to the position of the buttons — the button on top is for left and right clicking with your thumb, while the button on the side is used for scrolling instead of the familiar mouse wheel. The base is also contoured to provide a nice hand rest, which keeps your hand from dragging on the mousepad or desk.

If there’s a problem with the 3M mouse, it’s a user-related problem. I noticed a tendency to grip the 3M mouse too tightly, and perhaps use too much force to click the buttons. But that’s true with any computer mouse. Keeping too tight a grip on a mouse and using more force than necessary to interact with the buttons can cause pain and discomfort on top of your wrist or arm. I think the truth is a lighter touch is probably better with most mice, but if you’re like me whatever stress your feeling at work manifests physically in a number of ways. For me, it’s either clenching my jaw (which I sometimes manage by chewing gum) or gripping my mouse too hard. I also tend to lean on my elbow, pressing it into the armrest, which also causes pain. None of this is related to the mouse, but

The other good thing about the 3M mouse is that it doesn’t require any additional software or drivers. So, it’s easy to use with a Mac or PC. Plus it apparently has an ease-of-use commendation from the Arthritis Foundation.

The 3M mouse now also comes in a wireless variety, which is noteworthy because it’s easy to use with a laptop, thanks to the small USB adapter, compared to some of the other wireless mice in this category.

Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouth

The Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse is another one I’ve used pretty extensively. I bought it for use at home, at the same time I was trying the 3M mouse at work.

[pro-player width=’450′ height=’370′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llndYYDK-Xk[/pro-player]

I wouldn’t call this a straight up vertical mouse, but it does have a significant “tilt” that shifts your wrist position in to the “handshake position,” which makes it a more “ergonomically correct” mouse. I bought it because I could use it at home, and it was a familiar enough looking mouse that other family members — Parker and the hubby — can use it without too much difficulty. The buttons and scroll wheel are all in the expected places, so there’s no learning curve.

The Microsoft mouse comes with it’s own Intellipoint software, which offers the ability to customize the functions of the mouse and buttons. In addition to the regular button and wheel functions, the scrollwheel also tilts left and right for sidewards scrolling. It works equally well on both Mac and PC.

This mouse is wireless, as the name states, which cuts down on the clutter of cords on the desktop. (One the projects on my “to do” list is to do something about the tangled mess of wires on, around and behind my desk.) It’s not a mouse that I’d use with a laptop that I carry around with me, because the wireless receiver is rather large and clunky.

My experience with this mouse was that it was effective but not as effective as the 3M mouse. Perhaps I needed a more drastic change in my wrist position, but I found that I still had wrist pain, and would often put on a brace when I used this mouse.

Wowpen Joy

I got the Wowpen Joy  mouse because it was a reasonably priced vertical mouse that I might toss into my bag and use with my laptop when I’m out and about.

[pro-player width=’450′ height=’370′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0lLlkn_HrM[/pro-player]

I believe it’s called the “Wowpen” because it doesn’t so much put your hand in a vertical position as it kinda puts it in the position you might use to hold a pen if you’re writing. The groove along the side where your thumb goes, put it in the position it would be in if you were holding a pen between your thumb and forefinger (which is on the left-click button when holding the mouse). Another product, the Wowpen Eco, makes this more obvious with a pen-like shape. (The Eco also seems made with laptop users in mind, given its size.

Aside from the usual left and right buttons and the scrollwheel, there are two foward and back buttons on the side for use while browsing the web.

The Wowpen is strictly plug-and-play, requiring no extra software, etc., and works equally well on Mac or PC. The scrollwheel is strictly up and down. There’s no sideways scrolling.

I had mixed results with this mouse. To hold it the way depicted in the images and the video, pictures and directions, you’ll have to tolerate your hand dragging across the mouspad or desktop while mousing. That bugged me, so I tended to shift my fingers upward. If that doesn’t bother you then you might like the Wowpen Joy.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse

I’ve been eying the Evoluent Vertical Mouse for a long time, and finally took the plunge and ordered it. I had trouble choosing between it and the the Zero Tension Mouse. The deciding factor ended up being that the Evoluent mouse was available through Amazon Prime.

[pro-player width=’450′ height=’370′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViH9sEhHecs[/pro-player]

The Evoluent mouse may be the best vertical Mouse I’ve tried yet, with the 3M mouse running a close second. This is probably the priciest mouse reviewed here, but so far, it’s worth it. Of the mice in this review it tops the others for comfort, ease of use, and additional features.

The Evoluent Mouse, unlike the Wowpen and Microsoft mice, is a truly vertical mouse. The only way to use it is with your wrist in the “handshake” position. Like the 3M mouse, the Evoluent mouse takes care of the problem of your hand dragging on the desk or mousepad. Not with a base, like the 3M mouse, but with a small lip at the bottom of the mouse, where your little finger rests.

Like the other like, I found the Evoluent works best with a light touch. Squeezing it too tightly can cause you to click buttons unintentionally. I don’t so much rest my hand on the mouse as I cup my hand around it and guide it with my hand. It glides easily across the mousepad, and if you run out of mousepad, tiltling the mouse slightly to disable the tracking, moving it and placing it flat again works and is easy to do with some practice. This is necessary, because the design of the mouse makes for a base that seems slightly larger than a standard mouse, to me.

Like the other mice, the standard mouse buttons are all here and in their expected positions. Plus, the Evoluent mouse adds two extra buttons, and the ability to customize all buttons with additional software. But the software is not necessary to use the mouse. If you don’t particularly need to customize the buttons, or need the extra buttons to work, it’s a plug-and-play mouse that work as well as any other mouse, but without the wrist pain that comes from extended use.

I got the 3rd generation version, but the 4th generation Evoluent mouse adds another button, an improved thumb rest, an extended lip and an adjustable laser sensor among other features. It also comes in a left handed version. I can see myself upgrading to the 4th generation mouse eventually, but right now I’m pleased with the 3rd generation mouse enough to stick with it for the foreseeable future. If anything, I’ll probably get the wireless 3rd generation mouse, since it has a smaller sensor than the Microsoft mouse.

Of all the vertical mice I’ve tried so far, the Evoluent mouse is the best designed and the easiest to use. I definitely recommend it if you’re suffering from wrist pain related to carpal tunnel.

The Penguin Vertical Mouse

The Penguin Vertical Mouse is the only mouse in this post I haven’t tried, but I stumbled across a video yesterday and was intrigued.

[pro-player width=’450′ height=’370′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65YRJ3foIys[/pro-player]

The Penguin marks a major breakthrough in the battle to beat health problems created when computer users spend too much time handling a conventional mouse. It sets new standards of protection against a range of upper limb conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) and carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) by enabling right and left hands to share the workload and avoiding exaggerated movements of the wrist joint that can increase pressure on the soft tissues in the carpel tunnel. Regular switching of hands throughout the day helps prevent static muscle strain (SMS) in the arm and shoulder – a major source of discomfort in mouse work.

The reason I’m interested in this mouse is because it’s ambidextrous. That is, it’s designed to be used with either hand, and alternating hands is another way of avoiding repetitive stress injury that’s basically what carpal tunnel is. From the description, a user can switch hands by merely moving the mouse and clicking the switch near the base, to change the direction of the scroll wheel.

It looks good and sounds good. But, alas, I cant’ say more until I get my hands on it.

Of the vertical mice I have gotten my hands on, the Evoluent mouse stands out as the best, with the 3M eronomic mouse coming in a very close second.

The search for the perfect mouse continues…. As soon as I can get my hands on more specimens.

2 Comments

  1. I’ve had a lot of wrist issues in the past, but not from computers, I don’t think, but I was immediately wary of using a mouse when I first got a computer, and I’ve hated it whenever I’ve had to use one.

    Have you ever tried a Logitech Trackball M570? You can basically just lay your hand right on top of it and it’s oriented slightly sideways. It’s big so your hand can stay spread out and relaxed. The thumb rolls the the ball around and the index finger does the clicking. I find it much easier to control and it’s easier on my hand, wrist, and even shoulder than sliding a mouse around.

    One time I tried a trackball where the index finger rolls the ball. That was horrible. It also had a skinnier shape and my hand cramped up.

    Everyone is different though, so good luck in your search

  2. Here from Shakesville. I’m gratefully bookmarking this post; both my partner and I have long-standing RSI problems, and I know mousing is a factor.

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